8 questions for the Trade Deadline

July 31st, 2018

We're mere hours away from today's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, leaving buyers and sellers alike pondering major decisions that could shape the fate of their short- and long-term futures.

One year ago, Deadline day saw , , , Tony Watson, , Tony Cingrani, Joe Smith, Alex Avila and traded before the Deadline, while changed teams literally moments before the clock struck 4.

This year's trade season has already seen Manny Machado, Cole Hamels, Brad Hand, J.A. Happ, Zach Britton, , , Mike Moustakas, , , , , , and change teams, but there are plenty of players still available to make today a crucial one on Major League Baseball's calendar.

MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of all the news, with a special edition of MLB Tonight beginning at 1 p.m. ET that will be simulcast on MLB.com through the Deadline.

So what should fans be looking for in the final hours?

Will the Nats deal ? Buy? Hold?

According to a source, the Nationals let it be known in recent days that Harper was indeed available via trade, setting up what could have been a wild race for the superstar with hours to go before the Deadline.

But Tuesday morning, general manager Mike Rizzo told several reporters, including MLB.com's Jamal Collier, that he had no plans to trade his superstar outfielder, dousing the red-hot rumor mill with cold water.

Collier reported that the Nationals were expected to stand pat before the Deadline, though reports indicated that the Brewers might make a play for left-hander .

The Nationals still seem interested in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, so it's entirely possible that Washington emerges from the fray as a buyer with an eye toward making a run at a postseason spot.

Even as they've attempted to acquire Realmuto, the Nationals have been fielding offers for a trio of impending free-agent relievers -- , and , setting up a potential Plan B that could include any of their expiring contracts other than Harper.

Washington's other free-agents-to-be include , Matt Adams, and .

Will Chris Archer be traded?

This has been a burning question for a couple of years, but the Rays appear more open to the idea of moving their ace than ever. Tampa Bay has drawn interest from more than a half-dozen teams, though the Padres, Yankees, Braves and Brewers seem to be making the biggest push.

Would the Rays really deal their best starter to an American League East rival? The Yankees certainly have the prospect capital to pull off such a move, though it would be rare to see a player of Archer's caliber -- not to mention his team-friendly contract, which will pay him a total of $27.5 million from 2019-21, assuming both of his option years are picked up -- traded within the division.

Will the Mets deal one of their starters, and if so, which one?

Despite a lot of chatter during the past month that could be moved -- talk that intensified at the All-Star Game after his agent essentially challenged the Mets to either sign deGrom to an extension or deal him -- it looks as though the National League's ERA leader will remain with the Mets for the remainder of the season.

Ditto for , who missed seven weeks with a strained ligament in his right index finger and has started only 13 games this season. , who hasn't even reached his arbitration years yet, is under team control through 2021, making it highly unlikely he'll be traded.

That leaves Zack Wheeler, who has recorded a 2.96 ERA over his past eight starts, thrusting himself into the "best available starter on the market" conversation. Wheeler is owed about $600,000 for the rest of the season and is arbitration-eligible next year, so the Mets will have to get a nice haul of prospects back if a team hopes to pry Wheeler from Citi Field.

How many relievers will be on the move?

Britton, Hand, Familia, Soria, Herrera, Kela, , , , Jonny Venters, and have already been traded, but plenty of relievers are still available.

The Blue Jays shipped Osuna to Houston on Monday for and a pair of prospects, while the Mariners acquired Zach Duke from the Twins and from the Yankees in a pair of bullpen moves.

Still, with no less than a dozen relievers being shopped and only a finite number of contenders looking to add to their bullpen, the prices should continue to drop as we get closer to 4 p.m.

Among the names expected to be discussed: , [Update: Traded to D-backs], , , , , and .

Will any catchers be traded?

The Nationals continue to stay in touch with the Marlins about Realmuto, though Miami's price continues to be higher than Washington will pay.

If the Nationals do not land Realmuto but decide to make moves with an eye toward contending, -- who played in Washington from 2010-16 -- could come back into the picture despite being on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. The Red Sox are also seeking help behind the plate.

The catcher most likely to be traded? of the Mets. He's owed about $5.25 million for the rest of the season, so New York would likely need to pay down part of the salary to land any type of prospect for the 30-year-old backstop.

How many more players will the Twins trade?

Minnesota has already shipped out Escobar, Pressly, Duke and this month, but is headed for free agency, leaving him as a prime candidate to be moved.

Other trade candidates include Rodney, , , Reed, Jake Odorizzi and , each of whom is under control through 2019. Gibson's name has been all over the rumor mill, though the Twins are likely to hang on to the 30-year-old right-hander unless they're blown away by an offer.

Will waive his no-trade clause?

The face of the Orioles franchise for most of the past decade, Jones appears ready to reject any potential trade, a right he's earned through his 10-5 status with Baltimore.

Several teams have expressed interest in adding Jones for the stretch run, but his family is rooted in Baltimore, and it seems he wants to end his time there on his own terms. Jones, 32, will be a free agent after the season, and he is expected to sign with another organization as the Orioles enter a rebuilding phase that will likely result in the club slashing payroll in 2019.

Is there any reason for non-contenders to hang on to their expiring contracts?

In most cases, the answer is a resounding "No." While players such as Machado would have been a lock for a qualifying offer, most of the impending free agents aren't the types expected to receive that offer, which figures to be about $18 million for 2019.

Free agents who are not extended a qualifying offer bring back no compensation for their former team, so for any teams out of the postseason picture, there is no advantage to holding on to any players in the final years of their contracts.

Aside from those previously mentioned, players with expiring contracts who could be on the move are right-handers Matt Harvey, and ; and outfielders , , , and .